WND – Rambling & Minature Corn

October 30, 2008

There are certain places that are quintessentially emblematic of a particular region or aesthetic.  It’s like they’ve been designed to fit a stereotype and they’re a little Stepford in how well they succeed in conforming to our expectations.

Gruyere in Switzerland is like that – although in fairness, a lot of Switzerland is a little Stepford.  Gruyere is what happens when Hansel and Gretel escape from the wicked witch and decide to go into urban planning.  There are cobblestone streets lined with neatly whitewashed houses with geraniums in every window box.  There’s a fountain in the middle of the town square, and there are flower arrangements in old wells (geraniums, of course – we knew my mother had lived in Switzerland too long when she started to buy geraniums for outside planters with a complete lack of irony).  In the winter, snow rims the eaves and icicles hang in neatly ordered rows.  Because this is Switzerland I’m sure that the inhabitants are trimming the icicles if they get longer than the regulation limit.

On the upside, when you get raclette in Gruyere you’re presented with a solid pound of cheese under a heat lamp, a stone crock of boiled potatoes and a bowl of pickled onions.  You think to yourself that you and your three lunch companions will never eat that much cheese, and yet somehow 45 minutes later there is only the tiniest sliver of cheese left bubbling under the heat lamp.  When you get raclette in places like Geneva they bring you individual slices of melted cheese to put on your potatoes.  This is probably better for your waist line, but much less fun to eat.  Also, when you order coffee at the end of your meal in Gruyere it comes with a crock of cream that’s so solid that you have to scoop it out with a knife.

Concord (Massachusetts) is the New England version of Gruyere, minus the infusions of heavy cream and geraniums.  Concord is picture postcard perfect New England from the white clapboard church on the town square to the gabled store fronts and the tree lined streets.  Concord looks picturesque no matter when you visit, but never more so than in the Fall when the streets are decorated with sheaves of wheat and groups of pumpkins, the air is crisp and clear, and someone somewhere is selling hot cider and possibly cider donuts.

And it must be said, we’re having a truly spectacular Fall this year.  It got cold fast, which is terrible for my heating bill, but great when it comes to turning the leaves brilliant shades of crimson and orange.  Driving around Concord at any time of year is a little dreamlike, driving around it during the middle of Fall verges on the downright surreal.

It’s enough to make me decorate with miniature pumpkins and tiny cobs of Indian corn.  I’d like to claim I’d never do that because it’s a little Sandra Lee and of the many things I’d like to not be, Sandra Lee is up there with serial killer and talk show host.  Although, to clarify, I’m not doing tablescapes with miniature pumpkins and decorative Indian corn – they’re just discretely piled in the fruit bowl that lives on the dining room table.  Frankly, this is probably bad enough, but they’re cute and I was overcome by the spirit of New England and Fall, or some other form of momentary mental aberration

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce

Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce
Having admitted to a nod in the direction of Sandra Lee I feel like I should reassure everyone that all ingredients in tonight’s dinner were real.  Granted I didn’t roast and puree my own pumpkin, but it was just plain canned pumpkin that was used.  No pumpkin pies were eviscerated in the service of dinner.

Recipe previously given:     Season of Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness


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